The crowd bursts into applause as the sandy-haired man walks onto the stage. Red, white and blue signs with political slogans wave like trees in the wind. The crowd quiets as the man’s voice booms across the sound system. His message is clear and simple. We’re making our country great again! A few voices boo, only to be muffled by the deafening cheers and applause.
This year, midterm elections hit a 50-year high in voter turnout with over 113 million voters showing up at the polls.  Both parties sought to rally their voter base around a central figure or key issues. Both parties were successful at getting people out to vote.
You might be wondering by now what politics has to teach us in a series about the church. The analogy is limited, but I think we can still learn a lot from the midterm elections.
What Politics and History Teach Us
We unify and we split over many issues, some more trivial than others. Jesus recognized this before ascending into Heaven, and His last prayer for the disciples was “that they all may be one…that the world may believe that You sent me” (John 17:21). And here we see the purpose of Christian unity – so that the world will know that God sent Jesus. What a compelling reason to pursue unity with all of our energy!
Sadly, church history is riddled with church split after church split. Even in Acts, amidst the powerful spread of the Gospel and the many signs and wonders, Paul and Barnabas had an ugly disagreement and split ways. Yet God was at work – instead of one missionary team, now there were two. And God continues to work through imperfect humans and ugly situations. The Gospel still spreads across the globe and churches still multiply.
Even though God can work in disagreements, ugly splits continue to happen as inter-fighting and gossip tear apart once-thriving congregations. As Christ’s disciples, we must wholeheartedly pursue true unity.
Two Keys to True Unity
Key #1: We cannot experience unity without Christ as the foundation. Unity found in any other person, agenda, or man-made institution is temporary and superficial, at best. Political figures and parties will rise and fall. The surging crowds and waving banners will quickly die away. But a Christ-centered unity is the only common ground that will stand the test of time.
Jesus’ inner group of twelve men had very little reason to stick together. Simon the Zealot (who hated the Romans) and Matthew the Tax Collector (who collected taxes for the Romans) were natural enemies. Rivalries were common among this motley group of men. Yet their beloved leader, Jesus, patiently guided them toward a brotherly love for one another.
At the Last Supper, Jesus got down on His hands and knees and washed their dusty, grimy feet – the Teacher of teachers, doing a job that belonged only to the lowest of servants. When He was done, Jesus said, “Do as I have done to you” (John 13:15b). With both His words and His actions, Jesus was calling His disciples to love and serve each other – the next key to true unity.
Key #2: We cannot experience unity without true love for our brothers and sisters. Paul exhorts us to be “kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10a). Being children of God makes us brothers and sisters of the same family. And our Heavenly Father wants His children to love each other!
This doesn’t come naturally. What does come naturally is envy and self-seeking, which the book of James says is the cause of most church issues, including church splits (James 3:17). That’s why he calls us to be “peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy…” Simple obedience to this verse would go a long way in many disagreements!
Paul the Apostle said he would never eat meat if it might cause his brother to stumble (1 Cor. 8:13). True love will sometimes call us to adjust our lifestyle, habits, and even personality to serve and bless our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Making it Practical
Up to this point, this discussion has centered on concepts of unity. But unity is so much more than an abstract concept; it is a reality that Christ desires for His church today! And that’s where I fall so short. I’m only 26, but I am reminded of so many times that I didn’t pursue unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Here are a few things that I have learned (and am still learning!) in the pursuit of unity.
Stand on truth, in grace and love.
In our zeal to obey the Word of God, we must never forget that the same Word calls us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, NIV). We need the infilling of the Holy Spirit to stand on truth while extending grace and love to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Care enough to admonish and speak truth in love.
When we love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we will care enough to speak truth, even when it hurts. If we see sin in a friend’s life, we will lovingly confront it. If we see an area that needs growth, we will offer encouragement.
Learn to value people who are different from you.
Two weeks ago, our ministry team brought in a team coach and spent an entire day in sessions and team building activities. Together we gained new understanding and appreciation for each other’s strengths and differences.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds us that we are one body, yet with many different parts and functions. Every part of the body is different, yet we all need each other in order to function properly. In the body of Christ, we should celebrate our differing gifts, abilities, and personalities.
Make Christ your wholehearted pursuit.
Today as much as ever, we need a solid foundation for our unity. As politics has shown us, charismatic personalities and large crowds aren’t the answer to our yearning for oneness.
Only Christ Himself can bring together the zealot and tax collector, the black and the white, the red and the blue, the male and the female. He is the only eternal solution to man’s selfish and divisive heart. He is the only true middle where enemies can meet as brothers and sisters.
When we will pursue Christ, to know Him, to serve Him, and to obey Him faithfully, our Christ-centered unity will stand out in a world full of strife. And it will make our Heavenly Father look great.
May we love Christ enough to pursue true unity.
|Ian Miller lives in Harrisburg, PA with his wife Marci, where they are involved in a Spanish church plant. Ian volunteers for a non-profit organization while working on his BA in English through College Plus. He is passionate about urban, cross-cultural church planting, and verbal, personal evangelism.|
- Domonoske, Camila. “A Boatload Of Ballots: Midterm Voter Turnout Hit 50-Year High.” NPR, NPR, 8 Nov. 2018, http://www.npr.org/2018/11/08/665197690/a-boatload-of-ballots-midterm-voter-turnout-hit-50-year-high.